The Three Cities are not really cities (we are on a very small island after all), but it’s actually small towns.

Today’s post will be a visit to museums … so buckle up for a bit of history!

Short History on The Three Cities:

When the Order of St John first arrived on Malta, the Knights settled in Valletta. However, the center of their world was Birgu where they built forts, a hospital and several churches and palaces.

But after 1565 this project was destroyed by The Great Siege and it was then that the three cities’ names changed. Birgu’s name has changed to Vittoriosa, while L’Isla was renamed Senglea (renamed after French Grand Master Claude de la Sengle) and Bormla became Cospicua.

Vittoriosa, Senglea & Cospicua:

Although the Three Cities are very close together and therefore easy to visit, we have only visited Vittoriosa and Senglea. Senglea was also our base on our first visit to Malta. Cospicua is one of the most important industrial centers of Malta and we have travelled several times through this little town with the bus, but never took any photo’s.


The colourful harbour at Vittoriosa (this photo was taken from Senglea)
The honey-coloured stone fortifications in Vittoriosa

Vittoriosa is without doubt the most important city of the three. The Knights of Malta chose Vittoriosa (then known as Birgu) as their capital where they built palaces and churches, as well as a new harbour. Fort St Angelo was the Knight’s headquarters in The Great Siege and can clearly be seen when one enters the Grand Harbour.

The narrow medieval streets in Vittoriosa

While in Vittoriosa, we’ve visited the Maritime Museum, Inquisitor’s Palace and the Malta at War Museum.

The Maritime Museum:

The entrance to The Maritime Museum

This building was previously known as the Royal Naval bakery – at one time it fed the whole Mediterranean fleet – but it is now converted into a museum, which opened in 1992.

Ship models include a grand master’s ceremonial barge, a lateen-rigged Gozo ferry and a “third-rate ship-on-the-line” from the mid-18th century.

Here are just a few photo’s we’ve taken inside the museum:

A replica of a Roman Merchantman of the First Century AD
Greek 5th century BC trireme (Ancient Greek vessel)
Sea fearers with the Maltese cross evident on their uniforms
Full diving gear of the previous century – just look at those heavy metal boots!

After our visit to the Maritime Museum, it was time for a rest at one of the many restaurants. We’ve opted for the Tate Restaurant where Berto had a huge piece of chocolate cake and I had the sweetest chocolate croissant.

My take on an early lunch – sweet chocolate croissant and coffee

We had a lovely view over the clock tower and the harbour while having a break from our day of visiting museums.

The elegant clock tower by Dockyard Creek
Our view over the harbour at Vittoriosa

After our sweet treats at Tate Restaurant, we’ve taken a stroll through the streets of Vittoriosa before getting on with our museum visits – it was now time for The Inquisitor’s Palace.

Walking through the ancient streets of Vittoriosa

The Inquisitor’s Palace:

The Office of the Inquisition existed to defend the Catholic faith and counter heresy. As the Pope’s agent, the Inquisitor was stylishly housed in a Palace that was built around 1574.

The internal courtyard at the Inquisitor’s Palace
The main staircase leading to the second floor – constructed by Inquisitor Francesco Stoppani in 1733
I was intrigued by this cooking stove used by the inquisitor in the 19th century

Since the palace became a museum in 1995, it is focusing on the religious values in Maltese identity up to the present day, especially as influenced by the Inquisition.

Malta at War Museum:

Our final visit to a museum in Vittoriosa, was the Malta at War Museum. This museum is dedicated to Malta’s role in World War II. The museum is housed within a barrack block and a rock-hewn air-raid shelter within Couvre Porte Counterguard.

Exhibition of troops during World War II

During World War II, the St John Ambulance and the Red Cross worked together to meet wartime medical- and welfare needs on the home front and overseas – they formed the Joint War Organisation (JWO).

The St John Ambulance Brigade in Malta had over 450 members at the height of the war
The room where babies were born during World War II

After walking through the museum, we had the opportunity to climb down into the bomb-shelter complex underneath the building. We got to wear bright yellow hard-hats because some of the ceilings are very low.

A flight of stairs carved out of the rock underneath the old Police Station, led into the shelter

Life inside these air raid shelters were safe, but far from comfortable. Lying deep in the rock, shelters were cold and humid throughout the year.

The long and narrow passages inside the shelter
A room and bed for sick patients inside the shelter

Over-crowding, lack of sanitary facilities and poor ventilation were only a few of the uncomfortable ways of living in these shelters. Occupants covered every bit of available floor space in these structures – the lucky ones slept on makeshift bunks set into the wall, while others slept on the cold barren floor … but I presume, it was a small price to pay to stay alive during the war.

This was quite a unique and intense experience for us and only after walking through these shelters, one realise the intensity of a war and how it must have affected the people during that time.


Senglea was worst hit of the Three Cities in World War II and the rebuilt town shows little in common with L’Isla (as it was known at the time of the Knights).

Senglea – as seen from the walls of Valletta

There is a small public garden located on the ramparts from where there is a beautiful view of Valletta. It is at this garden, where the famous lookout post (a watchtower) is situated.

The hexagonal vedette, a windowed watchtower with carved eye and ear to guard against the enemy

On our first visit to Malta, we’ve stayed here in Senglea. We’ve taken many long walks to admire the beautiful fortified walls and steep stairways that led to more streets (and more steps!)

This was our view over Valletta from our apartment – enjoying a glass of wine


As I’ve mentioned at the beginning of this post, though we’ve driven through this city quite a lot (to get to Senglea), we’ve actually never walked around in Cospicua.

This is the largest of the Three Cities and while it was at first a small fishing village, it is nowadays a flourishing town. I remember seeing beautiful churches and a shining statue of the Virgin Mary on our way through Cospicua and will definitely recommend that if you do get the chance, to explore this city as well.

A view of Cospicua (Photo credit: Malta Direct)

This was our take on the Three Cities of Malta. Next on the list, is a visit to the Blue Grotto and some prehistoric sites – until then!

We have done these trips in 2011 & 2013

22 thoughts on “MALTA (4)

    1. Thanks Marion. Yes, it would certainly be great to re-visit this beautiful island … just when I thought we’ve taken photo’s of all the places, I’ve realised (as with this post), we need to go back and take more photo’s ☺️.
      Thanks for reading and your comments.

      Liked by 2 people

  1. I’ve not read much about Malta. I’m drawn to the muted sandstone architecture surrounded by water; there’s something soothing and exotic (for lack of a better word) about it. Reminds me a bit of Cadiz—a city I really like in southwestern Spain.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’ve never heard of Cadiz (but looked it up now and you’re right, it does indeed looks very similar to Malta – amazing!) It was also that sandstone colour and their architecture that caught my attention initially … well, that was until I’ve tasted the food and learned about their history 😉.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. It all looks so amazing. It must have been really hard for the citizens to live underground. 😕 we have similar WW2 tunnels here in Ramsgate, hewn out of the chalk cliffs. Quite remarkable. I’m so looking forward to visiting Malta 🇲🇹

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It was the first time we saw something like that – like you’ve said, it’s quite astoningshing how the people lived for months in these bunkers 😲. I really hope you will get the opportunity to visit Malta … I’m sure you’ll love it!

      Liked by 1 person

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